The free agent market has begun to wound down, but there are still a number of veteran MLB players available. One of those is off the board, as the Red Sox have reportedly come to a Minor League deal with former Padres catcher Jorge Alfaro. It’s an interesting moves for both sides, but one that make sense for the Sox given the team’s lack of depth at the position.
A Look at Alfaro
Per MLB.com, the Sox have agreed to a Minor League deal with Jorge Alfaro. The deal comes with two opt-outs, and Boston will only owe Alfaro $2 million should the team elect to add him to the MLB roster.
The former Marlin and Padre catcher has shown flashes throughout his over five seasons in the Majors. Originally a member of the Texas Rangers organization, Alfaro was dealt twice over the a span of five years. The 29-year-old headed to Philadelphia as part of the Cole Hamels trade, and was then sent to Miami by the Phillies in order to acquire J.T. Realmuto.
Alfaro has recorded two career seasons in which the Columbian native cracked double digits in home runs, with a career high of 19 in 2019. Things, however, went down for Alfaro after that campaign. Over the last three seasons, Alfaro has hit .242/.283/.359 with 14 home runs and 46 extra base hits. The new Red Sox catcher’s 78 OPS+ in the span was considerably below league average.
The 31-year-old’s batted ball numbers are rather intriguing. Given the 6’3”, 230 lb. Alfaro’s natural strength, one would think that those attributes would give him a heightened advantage, in terms of driving the ball and making hard contact. Alfaro does at least do the latter, as his career 43.8% Hard Hit% is well above league-average.
The problem, however, is Alfaro has struggled with squaring up pitches and driving balls upward. The new Red Sox’s career GB% and Topped% rates are below-average, two indicators that illuminate Alfaro’s problems. In addition to too many topped pitches, Alfaro’s career K% OF 34.1% is below league-average by double digits.
A former top prospect in the Rangers and Phillies farm systems, Alfaro always possessed the tools to be an everyday catcher. A myriad of issues, however, have held Alfaro back throughout his career. Still, this Minor League deal doesn’t hurt the Red Sox by any means. Boston loses nothing by adding a versatile catcher who has not only has MLB experience, has played multiple positions, and could factor into the Sox’s catching plans given the team’s thinness at the position.
The State of the Sox
Boston no longer has the steady presence of Christian Vázquez — who signed with Minnesota this winter after being traded by the Sox in the summer of 2022 — to depend on for 2023. As things stand right now, the only catchers on the Red Sox’s 40-man roster are Connor Wong and Reese McGuire. Wong, who was acquired by Boston in the ill-fated Mookie Betts deal, has hit just .213/.290/.361 over 70 career plate appearances. The 26-year-old has shown pop in the Minors, but has yet to make an impact the MLB level.
As for McGuire, the 27-year-old has had a similar career arc to Alfaro. A former top prospect with the Pirates, McGuire has mainly served in a backup role in the Majors, but did see some regular time for the Sox late last season. The former Blue Jay did well, as he hit .337/.377/.500 over 36 games. It’s fair to expect McGuire to be the favorite to start, but that could change.
Given the lack of MLB experience behind the plate between both Wong and McGuire, it’s not hard to envision a MLB veteran with over 1,500 career plate appearances to be with Boston this season. But, it’s wise to temper expectations.